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Why Aren’t Consumers Looking to Hospital Websites for Patient Education?

Monday, June 12, 2017 7:53:00 PM

By Heather Noack

Heather Noack, Director Innovative Solutions at Customized Communications

When your patients have questions, where do they get their information? Google, Bing, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs? As providers, it is important that patients can quickly find medically accurate and up-to-date information from a credible source – and that source should be your organization.

Customized Communication, Inc. was interested in what healthcare providers were offering its patients and what patients were actually using. During focus groups conducted in 2016 across the United States and Canada, it found that patients go to the internet first and rarely even look to a hospital website for education options. When asked, “Did you ever consider looking at a hospital website for classes and information?” one patient responded with “No. Finding information on the internet was faster.”

With so much information available to patients online and via social media, how do healthcare educators and providers ensure they are reaching patients effectively and in a format that is engaging?

In preparation for the focus groups and conversations with healthcare providers, we researched what was available in the form of patient education for each participating facility. We took a close look at their websites for content and offline class offerings, including ease of use and the education formats available. One thing was clear: you can’t simply offer a one-size-fits-all education program. Healthcare providers have to be willing to streamline their programs and provide multiple formats of learning.

What does it look like to streamline patient education? How can education be made fluid and what are the benefits for the patient and the healthcare provider?

The most important part of any successful education program is communicating well with the patients. The availability of offline classes, online programs, and mobile apps has to be easy to find. In more than one response from focus groups, patients expressed the difficulty they had in finding information on the organization’s website. Once they found it, descriptions were vague and often the list of options was so overwhelming they had no idea how to register or begin a program.

Exploring the demographics of the community around you is also very important. Discover how consumers want to learn and offer options that convey a consistent message. Classes, books, eBooks, online programs and mobile options should available to reach every patient. We live in a fast paced society and with the vast amounts of information available at the fingertips of patients, and we can no longer offer a one dimensional learning experience. Creating an easy-to-follow learning program in multiple formats is a great way to re-energize health education.

In speaking with healthcare providers across the United States and Canada, one of the most shocking statements that we heard is “I didn’t know we had that.” The first few times we heard it, we were speechless. How can an organization expect patients to locate information when its own staff isn’t aware of what is available? Internal communication about available education programs is vital to properly educate patients or guide them in the right direction.

Streamlining education comes down to the 3 C’s…Communication, Consistency, and again, Communication. Communicate internally with staff on what is available and encourage them to become familiar with the content. Create a consistent education program with options for each learner preference. Then, spread the word to patients in an easy-to-follow, easy-to-find way. Three simple steps to a successful program that will make a positive impact on your organization and re-energize education for your community.

Heather Noack is director of innovative solutions at Customized Communications, an Irving, TX, firm that specializes in supplying women’s wellness materials to healthcare providers. She can be reached at 800-476-2253. Visit www.customizedinc.com.

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